[To everyone who voted for me in the Food Blog Awards, I can’t THANK YOU enough! Although I didn’t win, it was really fun to be invited to the party (and to see my blog stats jump to their highest level ever one day as a result). The winner, it turns out, was some little obscure blog that you’ve probably never heard of, “Mittens in the Kitchen,” or something. I guess that’s the last we’ll be hearing from her. But speaking of winning, don’t forget to enter my contest to win chocolate or Sweet Freedom baked goods! You’ve got 3 more days.]
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When I was asked a while back whether I’d like to review Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living by Alisa Marie Fleming, I didn’t hesitate to say “yes.” I was already familiar with Alisa’s popular website, GoDairyFree.org, and was tickled to have a few of my recipes included in her holiday desserts on her Milk-Free Blog. Still, I had to ensure that the recipes were those I could enjoy (ie, no animal products, no wheat, no refined sugar). Alisa assured me that yes, the majority the book’s recipes fit my criteria. That was all I needed to know!
Go Dairy Free by Alisa Marie Fleming
Since being diagnosed with a milk allergy in her 30s (and if you read her story, you’ll be astonished at how long it took to reach that diagnosis), Alisa Marie Fleming has established herself as a pivotal force in the world of dairy-free and allergen-free living.
As both creator and voice behind GoDairyFree.org, the website urging “A simple change for a better life,” Fleming provides online resources for those who shun dairy products, along with ample information for anyone with food allergies (many gluten-free recipes , as well as those for casein-free or animal-free diets also grace the site). For her latest feat, Fleming has compiled a comprehensive guide and cookbook for those with milk allergies, lactose intolerance or allergies to casein (the protein in milk): Go Dairy Free.
Whether you’ve recently been diagnosed with a milk allergy or simply prefer not to eat dairy products, this book is chock full of useful, practical information. The first 130 pages or so comprise the guidebook, offering information and explanations of the various types of dairy allergy, how they affect the body, and how to compensate after you cut milk products from your life.
In addition to a plethora of shopping and kitchen tips, the book also provides an exhaustive array of dairy replacements (both homemade or available for purchase) for every product imaginable, from butter to milk to cheese to yogurt to creamy sauces. (Who knew you could make your own potato milk?) Fleming’s style is relaxed and converstational, yet the information provided is always clear, well-researched and easily accessible to readers. This is the kind of reference book I like to keep at hand, to consult before shopping or while I cook; its place has already been secured at (easy-to-locate) eye level on my bookshelf.
The book’s cover entices with its vibrant, mouth-watering photos (by the immensely talented Hannah Kaminsky of My Sweet Vegan fame). But it wasn’t until I read past the guidebook that I truly fell in love. There, following the encyclopedic discussion of dairy-free living, was yet another ten chapters–all of recipes! And virtually every recipe was one I wanted to try, with so many of them featuring the kind of ingredients and flavor combinations that I most enjoy. I couldn’t wait to get cooking.
Well, the recipes did not disappoint. They were easy to follow and delivered as promised. Here’s what I’ve tried so far:
Light Apricot Scones
Given my penchant for all things breakfast or brunch, these scones were my first choice to try, and they certainly lived up to their name. With bits of tangy diced apricot throughout, the dense fruit offered a lovely contrast to the light, delicate biscuit. These also paired well with my own Brandied Apricot Ginger Spread, as you can see here:
Just look at the delicate crumb on this scone! Both the HH and I thoroughly enjoyed these, and they were equally good the next day (they didn’t last beyond that, so I don’t know how they would have been on Day Three).
Pillowy Whole Grain Pancakes
I couldn’t resist trying out these pancakes, as Alisa kindly acknowledges my own recipe as her inspiration! (I added some shredded coconut to these, just for fun). The pancakes were, indeed, pillowy–airy, tender, and, as you can see from the photo, incredibly light (there are only three pancakes in that stack, folks–and just look at how high it is).
Breakfast Worthy Banana Bread
This innovative bread was a huge hit in our home–which is why I don’t have any photos of individual slices (we gobbled them up too quickly to photograph). You can’t tell from the picture, but this loaf is intensely flavored, incredibly moist, and wonderfully satisfying. I ate this plain, slathered with almond butter, and topped with homemade pumpkin butter. Both the HH and I pronounced this bread our favorite banana bread–ever.
I’d been wanting to try the recipe for these polenta appetizers for over a year, but didn’t know what to use instead of feta. Then I saw Alisa’s recipe for this dairy-free version, and knew immediately I had to make it! It worked beautifully in these bites, which I served to friends a couple of weeks ago (I’ll be sharing the appetizer recipe in a future post, even if I can’t reveal the feta secret!).
Peanut Buttery African Stew
Redolent with creamy peanut butter and African-inspired spices, this stew became an immediate favorite in our house. After a skeptical grimace when I first described the ingredients to him, the HH took one bite and declared, “Hey! This is really good!” (High praise, indeed, from my meat-obsessed honey). As for me, I was equally enamored of the rich and subtly spiced sauce and big chunks of veggies. Both the colorful appearance and deep flavor of this dish is certain to appeal.
Chinese Five-Spice Noodles
Since Chinese Five Spice was already one of my favorite spice combinations, I knew I’d enjoy this dish even before cooking it. The pairing of exotic spices with citrus here is sensational, in a dish that’s hearty enough for dinner but light enough that you’ll feel energized after eating it. I’ll definitely be making this one again, too.
Peanut Butter “Truffles”
While these dangerously decadent truffles aren’t my usual dessert fare (they contain sugar), I did mix up a batch in honor of the CFO when she came to visit over the holidays last month. With a smooth, velvety peanut butter filling enrobed in dark, rich chocolate, this candy strikes the perfect balance of salty and sweet, rivalling anything I’ve eaten from a confectionary. They were spectacular! (I’d be sure to invite a crowd if you make these, as you’ll otherwise end up eating them all yourself).
It was pure pleasure sampling these items from the book, every one of which I’d make again. I’m looking forward to trying out many more of these reliable, interesting and tasty recipes. Go Dairy Free is that rare combination in a food-related tome: great food and great advice, all under one inviting cover.
Peanut Butter Cinnamon Popcorn (or Rice Crumbles)
I simply couldn’t end this entry without a recipe! While this one isn’t in the book (it’s from Alisa’s blog, One Frugal Foodie), it’s a fabulous recipe and will give you a good sense of Alisa’s style. I tried this the other day and was thrilled to find such a delectable use for my broken bits of rice cakes (the ones I used were sesame flavor, and this still worked beautifully). I think this mix would be sensational with added peanuts or cashews as well. Another PB-flavored treat that you won’t be able to resist!
Peanut Butter Cinnamon Popcorn (or Rice Crumbles)
from One Frugal Foodie
1/2 cup (120 ml.) light agave nectar
1/3 cup (60 g.) Sucanat (or other unrefined evaporated cane juice)
1/2 cup (120 ml.) natural peanut butter, smooth or crunchy
1 tsp. (5 ml.) pure vanilla extract
1/8-1/4 tsp. (.25 to .5 ml.) fine sea salt, to taste
1/2 tsp. (.5 ml.) ground cinnamon
8 cups (about 1 liter plus 920 ml.) popcorn or crumbles from broken rice cakes
Preheat oven to 250ºF. Line a rimmed cookie sheet or large rectangular pan with parchment paper, or spray with nonstick spray.
In a medium-sized saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the agave syrup and Sucanat. Cook and stir until the Sucanat is dissolved (this won’t take long). Remove from the heat and stir in the peanut butter, vanilla, salt and cinnamon. If the peanut butter doesn’t melt, place the pan back on the heat again just long enough to melt it. Gently stir in the popcorn or rice crumbles to coat them with the mixture. Spread the mixture evenly over the cookie sheet or pan and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring once, about mid-way through. (It took mine a lot longer to bake enough–I kept thinking it wasn’t crispy enough, but once it cooled, the coating crisped up nicely).
Alisa suggests that baking is not essential here, but I think it made a huge difference to the texture, and is definitely worth doing.
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Last year at this time: Turnip and Pear Soup
© 2009 Ricki Heller